Edward Snowden, world’s ‘most wanted fugitive’ to address …

Former NSA analyst Edward Snowden. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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Edward Snowden, the infamous whistleblower who leaked classified NSA information in 2013, will speak via video conference to an Israeli audience at a closed event on November 6, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

Snowden will speak on Israel-related issues from his secret hideaway in Russia at an event organized by the Israeli media consultancy firm OH! Orenstein Hoshen.

Though he will not be physically present, due to concerns that he might be handed over to US authorities, he is expected to take questions from the audience. Former deputy chief of the Mossad Ram Ben-Barak will respond to Snowdens remarks.

Hedan Orenstein and Itamar Hoshen said, Our firm is engaged in advising clients in the realm of economics, law, technology and high-tech and these are exactly the fields in which Snowden is involved. Snowden is a fascinating figure because his actions are so controversial. The audience will hear can ask tough questions and people can work out their own opinions.

Snowden was working for a private contractor of the CIA and NSA when he made international headlines by publishing masses of classified information in the biggest and most sensitive leak in the history of intelligence.

The leak unveiled for the first time the existence of post-9/11 powerful and invasive global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA, with the cooperation of European governments and telecommunication companies, including Google, Microsoft and Verizon. Some of the programs were discontinued, while others were continued but with higher levels of regulation.

In February 2015, a classified document leaked by Snowden revealed information about the cooperative intelligence-gathering efforts of the US, UK and Israel against Iranian targets.

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Other previous Snowden documents revealed a number of details of the inner workings of the intelligence relationships between the US and Israel and with the other members of the Five Eyes in general, which also includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England.

Those previous leaks, mostly in 2013, related to the NSA eavesdropping on some top Israeli officials and possible Israeli cooperation with the NSA to eavesdrop on other mutual allies of the two countries.

Another revelation indicated that the NSA may have greater authority to check communications with US citizens living in foreign countries, such as Israel, while yet another revealed that the US may sometimes cooperate with Unit 8200 to review metadata on behalf of the NSA that the NSA itself cannot review under US law.

Snowden remains one of the worlds most wanted fugitives. He could face life in prison or even the death penalty if he is ever captured.

He is both vilified as a traitor and revered as the whistle-blower who altered the playing field on the issue, putting the NSA on the defensive.

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Edward Snowden, world’s ‘most wanted fugitive’ to address …

Edward Snowden Biography – Biography

Edward Snowdenduring an interview in Hong Kong in 2013. (Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images)

One of the people Snowden left behind when he moved to Hong Kong to leak secret NSA files was his girlfriend Lindsay Mills. The pair had been living together in Hawaii, and she reportedly had no idea that he was about to disclose classified information to the public.

Mills graduated from Laurel High School in Maryland in 2003 and the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007. She began her career as a pole-dancing performance artist while living in Hawaii with Snowden.

In January 2015, Mills joined the Citizenfour documentary team onstage for their Oscars acceptance speech.

As of September 2017, Edward Snowden was still living in Moscow, Russia. However in February 2016 he said that hed return to the U.S. in exchange for a fair trial. In February 2017, NBC News reported that the Russian government was considering handing him over to the U.S. to curry favor with President Donald Trump, although Snowden remains in Russia.

In 2014, Snowden was featured in Laura Poitras’ highly acclaimed documentary Citizenfour. The director had recorded her meetings with Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. The film went on to win an Academy Award in 2015. “When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret, we lose the power to control and govern ourselves,” said Poitras during her acceptance speech.

In September 2016, director Oliver Stone released a biopic, Snowden, with Edward Snowden’s cooperation. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role and Shailene Woodley playing girlfriend Lindsay Mills.

Edward Snowden was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on June 21, 1983. His mother works for the federal court in Baltimore (the family moved to Maryland during Snowden’s youth) as chief deputy clerk for administration and information technology. Snowden’s father, a former Coast Guard officer, later relocated to Pennsylvania and remarried.

Edward Snowden dropped out of high school and studied computers at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland (from 1999 to 2001, and again from 2004 to 2005).

Between his stints at community college, Snowden spent four months from May to September 2004 in special-forces training in the Army Reserves, but he did not complete his training. Snowden told The Guardian that he was discharged from the Army after he broke both his legs in a training accident. However, an unclassified report published on September 15, 2016 by the House Intelligence Committee refuted his claim, stating: He claimed to have left Army basic training because of broken legs when in fact he washed out because of shin splints.

Snowden eventually landed a job as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. The institution had ties to the National Security Agency, and, by 2006, Snowden had taken an information-technology job at the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 2009, after being suspected of trying to break into classified files, he left to work for private contractors, among them Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton, a tech consulting firm. While at Dell, he worked as a subcontractor in an NSA office in Japan before being transferred to an office in Hawaii. After a short time, he moved from Dell to Booz Allen, another NSA subcontractor, and remained with the company for only three months.

During his years of IT work, Snowden had noticed the far reach of the NSA’s everyday surveillance. While working for Booz Allen, Snowden began copying top-secret NSA documents, building a dossier on practices that he found invasive and disturbing. The documents contained vast information on the NSA’s domestic surveillance practices.

After he had compiled a large store of documents, Snowden told his NSA supervisor that he needed a leave of absence for medical reasons, stating he had been diagnosed with epilepsy. On May 20, 2013, Snowden took a flight to Hong Kong, China, where he remained as he orchestrated a clandestine meeting with journalists from the U.K. publication The Guardian as well as filmmaker Laura Poitras.

On June 5, The Guardian released secret documents obtained from Snowden. In these documents, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court implemented an order that required Verizon to release information to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis” culled from its American customers’ phone activities.

The following day, The Guardian and The Washington Post released Snowden’s leaked information on PRISM, an NSA program that allows real-time information collection electronically. A flood of information followed, and both domestic and international debate ensued.

“I’m willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” Snowden said in interviews given from his Hong Kong hotel room.

The fallout from his disclosures continued to unfold over the next months, including a legal battle over the collection of phone data by the NSA. President Obama sought to calm fears over government spying in January 2014, ordering U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the country’s surveillance programs.

The U.S. government soon responded to Snowden’s disclosures legally. On June 14, 2013, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with “theft of government Property,” “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”

The last two charges fall under the Espionage Act. Before President Barack Obama took office, the act had only been used for prosecutorial purposes three times since 1917. Since President Obama took office, the act had been invoked seven times as of June 2013.

While some decried Snowden as a traitor, others supported his cause. More than 100,000 people signed an online petition asking President Obama to pardon Snowden by late June 2013.

Snowden remained in hiding for slightly more than a month. He initially planned to relocate to Ecuador for asylum, but, upon making a stopover, he became stranded in a Russian airport for a month when his passport was annulled by the American government. The Russian government denied U.S. requests to extradite Snowden.

In July 2013, Snowden made headlines again when it was announced that he had been offered asylum in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. Snowden soon made up his mind, expressing an interest in staying in Russia. One of his lawyers, Anatoly Kucherena, stated that Snowden would seek temporary asylum in Russia and possibly apply for citizenship later. Snowden thanked Russia for giving him asylum and said that “in the end the law is winning.”

That October, Snowden stated that he no longer possessed any of the NSA files that he leaked to the press. He gave the materials to the journalists he met with in Hong Kong, but he didn’t keep copies for himself. Snowden explained that “it wouldn’t serve the public interest” for him to have brought the files to Russia, according to The New York Times. Around this time, Snowden’s father, Lon, visited his son in Moscow and continued to publicly express support.

In November 2013, Snowden’s request to the U.S. government for clemency was rejected.

In exile, Snowden remained a polarizing figure who has remained outspoken about government surveillance. He made an appearance at the popular South by Southwest festival via teleconference in March 2014. Around this time, the U.S. military revealed that the information Snowden leaked may have caused billions of dollars in damage to its security structures.

In May 2014, Snowden gave a revealing interview with NBC News. He told Brian Williams that he was a trained spy who worked undercover as an operative for the CIA and NSA, an assertion denied by National Security Adviser Susan Rice in a CNN interview. Snowden explained that he viewed himself as a patriot, believing his actions had beneficial results. He stated that his leaking of information led to “a robust public debate” and “new protections in the United States and abroad for our rights to make sure they’re no longer violated.” He also expressed an interest in returning home to America.

Snowden appeared with Poitras and Greenwald via video-conference in February 2015. Earlier that month, Snowden spoke with students at Upper Canada College via video-conference. He told them that “the problem with mass surveillance is when you collect everything, you understand nothing.” He also stated that government spying “fundamentally changes the balance of power between the citizen and the state.”

On September 29, 2015, Snowden joined the social media platform Twitter, tweeting “Can you hear me now?” He had almost two million followers in a little over 24 hours.

Just a few days later, Snowden spoke to the New Hampshire Liberty Forum via Skype and stated he would be willing to return to the U.S. if the government could guarantee a fair trial.

On September 13, 2016, Snowden said in an interview with The Guardian that he would seek a pardon from President Obama. Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things, he said in the interview.

The next day various human rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International launched a campaign requesting that Obama pardon Snowden.

Appearing via a telepresence robot, Snowden expressed gratitude for the support. “I love my country. I love my family,” he said. “I don’t know where we’re going from here. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. But I’m glad for the decisions I’ve made. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined, three years ago, such an outpouring of solidarity.”

He also emphasized that his case resonates beyond him. “This really isnt about me,” he said. “Its about us. Its about our right to dissent. Its about the kind of country we want to have.”

A day later, on September 15th, the House Intelligence Committee released a three-page unclassified summary of a report about its two-year investigation into Snowdens case. In the summary, Snowden was characterized as a disgruntled employee who had frequent conflicts with his managers, a serial exaggerator and fabricator and not a whistle-blower.

Snowden caused tremendous damage to national security, and the vast majority of the documents he stole have nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests they instead pertain to military, defense and intelligence programs of great interest to Americas adversaries, the summary of the report stated.

Members of the committee also unanimously signed a letter to President Obama asking him not to pardon Snowden. We urge you not to pardon Edward Snowden, who perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nations history, the letter stated. If Mr. Snowden returns from Russia, where he fled in 2013, the U.S. government must hold him accountable for his actions.

Snowden responded on Twitter saying: “Their report is so artlessly distorted that it would be amusing if it weren’t such a serious act of bad faith.” He followed with a series of tweets refuting the committee’s claims and said: “I could go on. Bottom line: after ‘two years of investigation,’ the American people deserve better. This report diminishes the committee.”

Snowden also tweeted that the release of the committee’s summary was an effort to discourage people from watching the biopic Snowden, which was released in the United States on September 16, 2016.

In April 2014, well before becoming president, Donald Trump tweeted that Edward Snowden should be executed for the damage his leaks had caused to the U.S.

Following President Trumps election, in November 2016, Snowden told viewers of a teleconference in Sweden that he wasnt worried about the government increasing efforts to arrest him.

I dont care. The reality here is that yes, Donald Trump has appointed a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death. But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesnt actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that Ive already made, Snowden said.

In an open letter from May 2017, Snowden joined 600 activists urging President Trump to drop an investigation and any potential charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for his role in classified intelligence leaks.

See the rest here:
Edward Snowden Biography – Biography

Edward Snowden: 5 years in Russia and still relevant as ever

The development, which came about over Iran, symbolised a world-turned-upside-down by US leader Donald Trumps unilateralism.

It left Mike Pompeo, Trumps foreign policy chief, disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed.

This is one of the of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security, he told press, after seven decades in which the US and EU had stood together against common adversaries, such as Russia, in the so-called transatlantic relationship.

The measures Pompeo referred to were the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle [SPV] to enable the EU and others to buy Iranian oil in a way that skirted Trumps new sanctions on Iran.

Everything that Ms Mogherini has said is extremely positive, Vladimir Yermakov, a senior Russian diplomat, told press, referring to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

He spoke after Mogherini chaired a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Iran, France, Germany, and the UK in New York earlier the same day.

EU member states will set up a legal entity [the SPV] to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world, Mogherini told press alongside Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in the margins of the UN assembly.

EU technical experts would shortly meet to flesh out details, she said.

EU refused to be pushed around by the unilateral decisions of our US allies, Frances Emmanuel Macron said (Photo: Consilium)

Do you have any better alternative than talks in times of conflict and crisis in the world? Is there a better alternative than diplomacy and dialogue? Is war a better alternative?, she told US broadcaster CNN in an interview on Tuesday.

The EU, Russia, and China deeply regret Trumps decision, they added in a statement.

His sanctions went against multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council, they added.

The EU-led group, called the E3+2 and Iran, had, together with the pre-Trump US administration in 2015, when it used to be called the E3+3 and Iran, agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran in return for its freeze of uranium enrichment.

But Trump, in May, tore up the accord on grounds it was not strong enough.

The threat of US sanctions has seen EU firms such as French and German car makers Daimler, Peugeot, and Renault, German engineering company Siemens, and French energy firm Total walk away from new ventures in Iran.

But we [the EU] cannot accept that the US decided the regions with which European companies can or cannot do business, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said after meeting Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in New York.

Were working hard on this [the SPV] with our European partners, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.

The EU-US rift on Iran comes after Trump started a trade war with Europe and China, threatened to pull the US out of NATO, and pulled America out of a global deal on climate change the Paris accord.

It comes after he also threatened to fine Austrian, Dutch, German, and French firms if they co-financed a new Russia-Germany gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2.

The French leader, Emmanuel Macron, attacked Trump for fomenting nationalism and protectionism in his UN speech on Tuesday.

Were being pushed around by the unilateral decisions of our US allies, in an approach that led to isolation and conflict to the detriment of everyone, Macron said.

Even those who contest the reality of climate change are suffering its consequences like everyone else, he added.

For his part, Trump, in his UN speech, threatened Iran with military force and redoubled his attack on Nord Stream 2.

Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course, he said.

He also praised Poland for standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty one day after the European Commission, on Monday, took Poland to the EUs highest court for political meddling in its judiciary in violation of EU values and laws.

Trumps speech prompted laughter in the UN chamber when he claimed he had achieved more in the past two years than any other US president in history.

I didnt expect that, he said.

Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength, Irans Rouhani told the UN in his speech.

Rather, its a symptom of weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world, Rohani said.

Via EU Observer

Read more from the original source:
Edward Snowden: 5 years in Russia and still relevant as ever

Edward Snowden Reconsidered | by Tamsin Shaw | NYR Daily …

Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty ImagesFormer NSA contractor Edward Snowden delivering a speech by video-link from Russia to a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, May 30, 2017

This summer, the fifth anniversary of Edward Snowdens revelations about NSA surveillance passed quietly, adrift on a tide of news that now daily sweeps the ground from under our feet. It has been a long five years, and not a period marked by increased understanding, transparency, or control of our personal data. In these years, weve learned much more about how Big Tech was not only sharing data with the NSA but collecting vast troves of information about us for its own purposes. And weve started to see the strategic ends to which Big Data can be put. In that sense, were only beginning to comprehend the full significance of Snowdens disclosures.

This is not to say that we know more today about Snowdens motivations or aims than we did in 2013. The question of whether or not Snowden was a Russian asset all along has been raised and debated. No evidence has been found that he was, just as no evidence has been found that he was a spy for China. His stated cause was the troubling expansion of surveillance of US citizens, but most of the documents he stole bore no relation to this avowed concern.A small percentage of what Snowden released ofthe1.7 million documentsthat intelligence officials believe heaccessed did indeed yield important informationabout domestic programsfor example, the continuation of Stellar Wind, a vast warrantless surveillance program authorized by George W. Bush after 9/11, creating legal structures for bulk collection that Obama then expanded. But many of them concerned foreign surveillance and cyberwarfare. This has led to speculation that he was working on behalf of some other organization or cause. We cant know.

Regardless of his personal intentions, though, the Snowden phenomenon was far larger than the man himself, larger even than the documents he leaked. In retrospect, it showed us the first glimmerings of an emerging ideological realignmenta convergence, not for the first time, of the far left and the far right, and of libertarianism with authoritarianism. It was also a powerful intervention in information wars we didnt yet know we were engaged in, but which we now need to understand.

In 2013, the good guys and bad guys appeared to sort themselves into neat and recognizable groups. The war on terror still dominated national security strategy and debate. It had made suspects of thousands of ordinary civilians, who needed to be monitored by intelligence agencies whose focus throughout the cold war had been primarily on state actors (the Soviet Union and its allies) that were presumed to have rational, if instrumental intentions. The new enemy was unreason, extremism, fanaticism, and it was potentially everywhere. But the Internet gave the intelligence community the capacity, if not the legal right, to peer behind the curtains of almost any living room in the United States and far beyond.

Snowden, by his own account, came to warn us that we were all being watched, guilty and innocent alike, with no legal justification. To those concerned primarily with security, the terrorists were the hidden hostile force. To many of those concerned about liberty, the deep state monitoring us was the omnipresent enemy. Most people managed to be largely unconcerned about both. But to the defenders of liberty, whether left liberals or libertarians, Snowden was straightforwardly a hero. Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardianat the time, said of him:

His motives are remarkable. Snowden set out to expose the true behaviour of the US National Security Agency. On present evidence he has no interest in money Nor does he have the kind of left-wing or Marxist sentiments which could lead him to being depicted as un-American. On the contrary, he is an enthusiast for the American constitution, and, like other fellow hacktivists, is a devotee of libertarian politician Ron Paul, whose views are well to the right of many Republicans.

The patriotic right, the internationalist left: these were the recognized camps in the now far-distant world of 2013. Snowden, who kept a copy of the US Constitution on his desk at the NSA, could be regarded by his sympathizers as a patriot engaging in a lone act of bravery for the benefit of all.

Of course, it wasnt a solitary act. Snowden didnt want to be purely a whistleblower like Mark Felt or Daniel Ellsberg; he wanted to be a figurehead. And he largely succeeded. For the last five years, the quietly principled persona he established in the public mind has galvanized opposition to the American deep state, and it has done so, in part, because it was promoted by an Academy Award-winning documentary film in which Snowden starred, a feature film about him directed by Oliver Stone in which he made an appearance, and the many talks he gives by video-link that have become his main source of income. He now has 3.83 million Twitter followers. He is an influencer, and a powerful one. Any assessment of the impact of his actions has to take into account not just the content of the documents he leaked, but the entire Edward Snowden Show.

In fact, most of what the public knows about Snowden has been filtered through the representations of him put together by a small, tight circle of chosen allies. All of them were, at the time, supporters of WikiLeaks, with whom Snowden has a troubled but intimate relationship. He initially considered leaking documents through WikiLeaks but changed his mind, he claims, in 2012 when Assange was forced into asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London under heavy surveillance, making access to him seem too difficult and risky. Instead, Snowden tried to make contact with one of WikiLeaks most vocal defenders, the independent journalist Glenn Greenwald. When he failed, he contacted the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, whom Greenwald had also vociferously defended when she drew unwanted government scrutiny after making a documentary film that followed a man who had been Osama bin Ladens bodyguard. The scrutiny turned into harassment in 2011, she claims, when she began making a film about WikiLeaks.

Poitras had been a member of the Tor Project community (which developed the encrypted Tor web browser to make private online interactions possible) since 2010 when she reached out to Jacob Appelbaum, an important member of both the Tor Project and also WikiLeaks, after becoming a close friend and ally of Assange. We know from Wireds Kevin Poulsen that Snowden was already in touch with the Tor community at least as early as 2012, having contacted Tors Runa Sandvik while he was still exfiltrating documents. In December 2012, he and Sandvik hosted a crypto party in Honolulu, where Snowden ran a session teaching people how to set up Tor servers. And it was through Tors Micah Lee (now working for The Intercept) that Snowden first contacted Poitras. In order to vet Snowden, Poitras turned to Appelbaum. Given the overlap between the Tor and WikiLeaks communities, Snowden was involved with the latter at least as early as his time working as a contractor for the NSA, in a job he took specifically in order to steal documents, in Hawaii.

Few people knew, when Citizenfour was released in 2014, how deeply embedded in both Tor and WikiLeaks Poitras was or how close an ideological affinity she then had with Assange. The Guardianhad sensibly sent the experienced news reporter Ewen MacAskill with Poitras and Greenwald to Hong Kong, and this helped to create the impression that the interests of Snowdens confidants were journalistic rather than ideological. We have subsequently seen glimpses of Poitrass complex relationship with Assange in Risk, the version of her WikiLeaks film that was released in 2017. But Riskis not the movie she thought she was making at the time. The original film, called Asylum, was premiered at Cannes in 2016. Steven Zeitchik, of the Los Angeles Times, described it as a lionizing portrait, presenting Assange as a maverick hero. In Risk, on the other hand, we are exposed more to Assanges narcissism and extremely unpleasant attitudes toward women, along with a wistful voiceover from Poitras reading passages from her production diary, worrying that Assange doesnt like her, recounting a growing ambivalence about him.

In between the two films, Assange lost many supporters because of the part he played in the 2016 US elections, when WikiLeaks published stolen emailsnow believed to have been hacked and supplied by Russian agentsthat were damaging to Hillary Clinton. But Zeitchik discovered, when he asked Poitras about her own change of heart, that it wasnt political but personal. Assange had turned his imperious attitude toward women on her, demanding before the Cannes screening that she cut material relating to accusations of rape by two women in Sweden. His tone, in particular, offended her. But her view of his actions leading up to the US election remained consistent with that of WikiLeaks supporters; he published the DNC emails because they were newsworthy, not as a tactic in an information war.

When Snowden initially contacted Poitras, she tells us in Risk, her first thought was that the FBI was trying to entrap her, Appelbaum, or Assange. Though Micah Lee and Appelbaum were both aware of her source, she tells us that she left for Hong Kong without Assanges knowledge and that he was furious that she failed to ensure WikiLeaks received Snowdens documents. Although Poitras presents herself retrospectively as an independent actor, while filming Snowden in Hong Kong she contacted Assange about arranging Snowdens asylum and left him in WikiLeaks hands (through Assanges emissary, Sarah Harrison). Poitrass relations with Assange later became strained, but she remained part of the Tor Project and was involved in a relationship with Jacob Appelbaum. (She shows in the film that Appelbaum was subsequently accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment over a number of years.)

In Risks added, post-production voiceover, Poitras says of the Snowden case: When they investigate this leak, they will create a narrative to say it was all a conspiracy. They wont understand what really happened. That we all kept each other in the dark. Its not clear exactly what she means. But it is clear that we all means a community of like-minded and interdependent people; people who may each have their own grandiose ambitions and who have tortuously complex, manipulative, and secretive personal relationships with one another. Snowden chose to put himself in their hands.

If this group of people shared a political ideology, it was hard to define. They were often taken to belong to the left, since this is where criticisms of the national security state have tended to originate. But when Harrison, the WikiLeaks editor and Assange adviser, flew to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, she was coming directly from overseeing Assanges unsuccessful electoral campaign for the Australian Senate, in which the WikiLeaks Party was apparently aligned witha far-right party. The WikiLeaks Party campaign team, led by Assanges father and party secretary John Shipton, had made a high-profile visit to Syrias authoritarian leader, Bashar al-Assad, and Shipton had heaped praise on Vladimir Putins efforts in the region, in contrast to Americas, in an interview with the state radio network Voice of Russia. The political historian Sean Wilentz, in what at the time, in 2014, was a rare critical article on Assange, Snowden, and Greenwald, argued that they shared nothing so coherent as a set of ideas but a common political impulse, one he described as paranoid libertarianism. With hindsight, we can also see that when they first became aligned, the overwhelming preoccupation of Poitras, Greenwald, Assange, and Snowden was the hypocrisy of the US state, which claimed to abide by international law, to respect human rights, to operate within the rule of law internally and yet continually breached its own purported standards and values.

They had good grounds for this view. The Iraq War, which was justified to the public using lies, fabricated evidence, and deliberate obfuscation of the overall objective, resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, as well as the rendition and torture of suspected enemy combatants at CIA black sites and their indefinite detention at Guantnamo Bay. The doctrine of preemptive war had been revived, along with imperialist ambitions for a global pax Americana.

But cynicism about the rule of law exists on a spectrum. At one end, exposing government hypocrisy is motivated by a demand that a liberal-democratic state live up to its own ideals, that accountability be reinforced by increasing public awareness, establishing oversight committees, electing proactive politicians, and employing all the other mechanisms that have evolved in liberal democracies to prevent arbitrary or unchecked rule. These include popular protests, the civil disobedience that won civil rights battles, and, indeed, whistleblowing.At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that the law is always really politics in a different guise; it can provide a broad set of abstract norms but fails to specify how these should be applied in particular cases. Human beings make those decisions. And the decision-makers will ultimately be those with the most power.

On this view, the liberal notions of legality and legitimacy are always hypocritical. This was the view promulgated by one of the most influential legal theorists of the twentieth century, Carl Schmitt. He was a Nazi, who joined the party in 1933 and became known as the crown jurist of the Third Reich. But at the turn of the millennium, as Bush took America to war, Schmitts criticisms of liberalism were undergoing a renaissance on both the far right and the far left, especially in the academy. This set of attitudes has not been limited to high theory or confined to universities, but its congruence with authoritarianism has often been overlooked.

In Risk, we hear Assange say on the phone, regarding the legality of WikiLeaks actions in the US: We say were protected by the First Amendment. But its all a matter of politics. Laws are interpreted by judges. He has repeatedly expressed the view that the idea of legality is just a political tool (he especially stresses this when the one being accused of illegality is him). But the cynicism of the figures around Snowden derives not from a meta-view about the nature of law, like Schmitts, but from the view that America, the most powerful exponent of the rule of law, merely uses this ideal as a mask to disguise the unchecked power of the deep state. Snowden, a dissenting agent of the national security state brandishing his pocket Constitution, was seen by Rusbridger as an American patriot, but by his chosen allies as the most authoritative revealer of the irremediable depth of American hypocrisy.

In the WikiLeaks universe, the liberal ideal of the rule of law, both domestic and international, has been the lie that allows unaccountable power to grow into a world-dominating force. Sarah Harrison insists that the US, with the help of its allies, has constructed a huge global intelligence, diplomatic, and military net that tries to see all, know all, govern all, decide all. It reaches all, and yet it is acting without [sic] impunity. This is the greatest unaccountable power of todaythe United States and our Western democracies. Greenwald has gradually shifted toward a similar position. Having initially supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but then been appalled by the civilian casualties and the use of torture, he asked in 2017: Who has brought more death, and suffering, and tyranny to the world over the last six decades than the US national security state?

This view of the US as the most malign actor in the world has now made him reluctant to criticize the actions of foreign states like Putins Russia. For example, asked about the Novichok poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England, an attempted assassination attributed to the Kremlin, he responds that Obamas drone strikes were morally no differenta gambit that, perhaps inadvertently, mimics the whataboutism of the Kremlin itself. But it wouldnt make sense for Greenwald to refuse to condemn the misdeeds of other states on the grounds that Americas are worse unless he had come to feel that all such judgments are a moralistic charade, that power politics is the only game in town.

In this light, it is extremely significant that Snowdens famous leak of documents revealing the NSAs PRISM surveillance program was misinterpreted when it was first disclosed by Greenwald and Barton Gellman of The Washington Postin a way that implied total lawlessness at the NSA. (According to Greenwalds book on the Snowden leaks, Gellman was put under significant pressure by Snowden to publish before the Posthad made the rigorous checks it wanted.) The initial story, as run by both Gellman and Greenwald, claimed that through PRISM, the NSA and FBI had direct access to the servers of the nine leading US Internet companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple). The term direct access, implying that these agencies could delve into the companies servers at will, with no legal authorization, was inaccurate, and although corrections were published, it created a false impression in the public mind that has never fully dissipated. Snowden himself has never used his platform to correct the error. Charlie Savage covers the episode in the updated edition of his Power Wars: The Relentless Rise of Presidential Authority and Secrecy. His comprehensive history of US government surveillance is not at all reassuring to those concerned about a lack of checks on executive power, but in describing the PRISM program specifically, he acknowledges that it was misunderstood.

The program operated within the existing FISA system and secured cooperation between the Internet companies and the NSA at the point when an individual suspected of involvement in terrorism had been targeted and the NSA wished to retrieve that suspects messages from the companies servers. Many Americans will still feel that this program constituted an unwarranted breach of privacy, but what PRISM does not do is vindicate the idea of a deep state operating entirely independently of the rule of law. Although this might seem like a fine distinction to some, it is an extremely significant one. But the narrative of deep-state lawlessness was too appealing.

Seumas Milne, then a Guardianjournalist (now the British Labour Partys executive director of strategy and communications), wrote an opinion piece on the Snowden leaks that poured scorn on the idea that American and British politicians are in any sense law-abiding.Claims that the intelligence agencies arenow subject to genuine accountability, rather than ministerial rubber stamps, secret courts and committees of trusties, have been repeatedly shown to be nonsense, he said, going on to claim that since democratic institutions had spectacularly failed to hold US and other Western states intelligence and military operations to account, it had been left to whistleblowers to take on this role, and it was up to the rest of us to make sure their courage isnt wasted. Given his despair of liberal-democratic institutions, that final exhortation seems worryingly open-ended.

Assanges allies, Milne included, have made clear that their allegiance doesnt lie with liberal democracies and their values. They have taken sides with authoritarianism in their fight against the hypocrisy of liberal democracies. Milne has been a prominent, expenses-paid guest of Putins Valdai discussion club, where Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and other Kremlin insiders meet to discuss Russian foreign policy with invited sympathetic Westerners. Assange, a former libertarian, has called Russia under Putin a bulwark against Western imperialism. He has for a long time been the beneficiary of Russian state resources (in 2012, when WikiLeaks ran out of money, the Russian state broadcaster RT hosted The Julian Assange Show, in which he interviewed controversial political figures), while subtly supporting Putins foreign policies, particularly in Syria. In 2016, he revealed just how effectively he could help the Kremlin attack US democracy by leaking stolen emails on their behalf in order to help sway the election. Assange has denied that a state was the source, but Justice Department indictments of twelve Russian military intelligence officers have identified an avatar created by the GRU, Guccifer 2.0, as the source.

For his part, Greenwald has repeatedly, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, decried as Russophobia the findings that Putin ordered interference in the 2016 US presidential electioneven appearing on Fox News to do so. The very term Russophobia obfuscates the distinction between Vladimir Putins regime and Russia; the two clearly cant be identified with one another. If open criticism of Putin by Russians were tolerated, it would presumably be vehement and widespread, as the effort it takes to suppress itthe murder of dissident journalists, the imprisonment, exile, and murder of political opponents and even financial rivalssuggests.In an interview with RT on the occasion of a visit to Snowden in Moscow last year, Greenwald said:

In the United States for a long time this shift has been taking place. Two of the most important protest movements in the USone was the Tea Party, the other was Occupy Wall Streetwere both perceived to be on different ends of the political spectrum. Yet they had very similar issues in common. They were protesting the bailout of Wall Street after the Wall Street crisis, the domination of corporations. When Donald Trump ran for president, even though he was perceived as a right-wing candidate, he did so by criticizing the Iraq war, by criticizing American militarism, by promising to drain the swamp of corporate influence.

The distinction between left and right, he argues, will increasingly be replaced by the opposition between people who are pro-establishment and anti-establishment. But being anti-establishment is not a politics. It defends no clear set of values or principles. And it permits prevarication about the essential choice between criticizing and helping to reform liberal democracy from within or assisting in its demise. It encourages its partisans to take sides with a smaller, authoritarian state in order to check the power of the one whose establishment it opposes.

It seems clear that Putin has exploited this fissure in Western values. It wouldnt take a political genius to manipulate the situation that arose around Snowden. And if Snowdens supporters, as Poitras claims, didnt conspire but all kept one another in the dark, how much easier it would have been for Putin to take advantage of them. Snowden himself claims that every decision he made he can defend and that he always acted in the interests of the United States rather than Russia. But the public narrative created around the leaks has served Putins purposes. This may have been more valuable to him than the actual intelligence that was disclosed.

Many states, including Russia, immediately used Snowdens disclosures as justifications for expanding their own surveillance programs as they rushed to catch up with the rapid expansion of Americas cyber-powers.Putin has exploited the PRISM story to foster theories about the deep state, claiming that the Internet is a CIA plot. It was extremely valuable to him at the time to undercut global trust in the big Silicon Valley media companies that were spreading American soft power around the globe and to defend instead cyber sovereignty, or each nation controlling the flow of information within its own territory.Russia has long engaged in information warfare in Ukraine and the Baltic states, as well as at home, and needs to protect its sphere of digital influence, as well as to weaken the global reach of the tech companies that give America so much cyber-power.

And Putin has benefited from the appearance of being Snowdens protector, presenting himself as a greater champion of freedom than the United States. In their book Red Web: The Kremlins War on the Internet, the Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan recounted the experiences of human rights activists who were summoned via an email purportedly from Snowden himself, to a meeting with him at Moscow airport when he surfaced there with Sarah Harrison, to find they were joining the heads of various pro-Kremlin human rights groups, Vladimir Lukin, the Putin-appointed Human Rights Commissioner of Russia, and the lawyers Anatoly Kucherena and Henri Reznik. It was clear to the independent activists that Kucherena had organized the meeting. Kucherena is a member of the FSBs Public Council, an organization that Soldatov and Borogan say was established to promote the image of the Russian security service; he is also the chairman of an organization called the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, which has branches in New York and Paris and was set up at Putins personal instigation, the authors tell us, for the purposes of criticizing human rights violations in the United States. This institute publishes an annual report on the state of human rights in the United States. Using misleading moral equivalences to attack American hypocrisy is one of the most common tactics in Putins propaganda war.

On the account given by Soldatov and Borogan, Snowden has appeared to cooperate with this strategy, barely deviating from Putins information agenda even as Putin has instigated extraordinarily repressive measures to rein in Internet freedoms in Russia. WhenSnowden agreed, for instance, to appear as a guest questioner on a televised question-and-answer session with Putin, he posed the Russian president a question that heavily criticized surveillance practices in the US and asked Putin if Russia did the same, which gave Putin an opening to assert, completely falsely, that no such indiscriminate surveillance takes place in Russia. Earlier this year, Snowdens supporters trumpeted a tweet in which he accused the Russian regime of being full of corruption, but Putin himself will use such accusations when he wishes to eliminate undesirable government actors. To be sure, Snowden is in a vulnerable position: he is notably cautious in his wording whenever he speaks publicly, as someone reliant on the protection of Putin might be. But he speaks often, and he uses his platform. So whether we trust him matters.It matters whether we view him as a bad actor, oras a well-intentioned whistleblower who has shown bad judgment, or as someone who has allowed himself to become an unwitting pawn of the Russians.

Snowden understands how information wars work and whats at stake. In Hong Kong, he told Greenwald and Poitras that he couldnt trust TheNew York Timesbecause he had realized that when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wanted to report on the NSAs warrantless eavesdropping, the paper sat on the story for a yeara decision that Snowden felt affected the outcome of the 2004 election. In the run-up to the 2016 election, he tweeted: Politics: the art of convincing people to forget the lesser of two evils is also evil. Three weeks before the election, he tweeted to his millions of followers, There may never be a safer election in which to vote for a third option, claiming, bizarrely, to trust the predictions of TheNew York Times.

Snowdens tweets and lectures have real-world impact. After his disclosures, Tors usership shot up from a million to six million. He repeatedly tweeted to his followers that they should use Tor and Signal. Tors default search engine DuckDuckGo, which claims to protect privacy by refraining from the profiling that other browsers do in order to provide personalized searches, saw a 600 percent increase in traffic over just a few months. One of DuckDuckGos partners is Yandex, Russiasgovernment-controlled search engine, although the company says it does not allow the collection orsharing of user data by its partners.Certification by the Snowden brand may well be the chief reason that so much faith is now placed uncritically in these platforms.

In 2016, Snowden became president of an organization called the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization set up in 2012 to allow donations to WikiLeaks via Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal when those payment processors had cut off WikiLeaks. Snowden joined its board in 2014, alongside Poitras, Greenwald, and Lee. Snowdens old friend from Tor, Runa Sandvik, is on their technical advisory board. The FPF continued to support WikiLeaks until early 2018, when the board finally became split over Assanges views and actions. Since the group was founded, it has used much of its $2 million annual budget to develop encryption software for media outlets. The groups biggest success has been developing a Tor-based system called SecureDrop, used by The Guardian, The New York Times, and TheWashington Postas a means for whistleblowers to submit documents. Given this degree of exposure, we need to consider whether Snowdens is a brand we can trust.

Snowden claims to have started an important conversation about Internet surveillance in America. President Barack Obama himself has given Snowden credit for enabling this essential public discussion, one that can confer genuine legitimacy on the security measures taken by the state. But such legitimacy is not something Snowden and his allies value or grant. In a 2016 lecture by video-link at Fusions Real Future Fair, Snowden discouraged his audience from pursuing the legal and political remedies that liberal democracies offer:

If you want to build a better future, youre going to have to do it yourself. Politics will take us only so far and if history is any guide, they are the least reliable means of achieving effective change Theyre not gonna jump up and protect your rights. Technology works differently than law. Technology knows no jurisdiction.

If theres one thing Greenwald, Assange, and their followers got right, its that the United States became a tremendous economic and military power over the last seven decades. When it blunders in its foreign or domestic policy, the US has the capacity to do swift and unparalleled damage. The question then is whether this awesome power is better wielded by a liberal-democratic state in an arguably hypocritical way but with some restraint, or by an authoritarian one in a nakedly avowed way and with no restraint. In the five years since Snowdens revelations, we have seen changes, particularly the election of Donald Trump with his undisguised admiration for strongmen, that compel us to imagine a possible authoritarian future for the United States. Democratic accountability, a system of checks and balances, and the rule of law may be imperfect measures but they look like our best hope for directing the American states power to humane ends. Previous failures are not a good reason to give up on this hope. Neither is faith in technology: it is a means; it doesnt discriminate between ends. Technology is not going to save us. Edward Snowden is not our savior.

An earlier version of this essay misstated the number of documents that Edward Snowden released; that number is not known. The figure of 1.7 million was an intelligence estimate given to Congress of files accessed by Snowden. An earlier version also misstated that the DuckDuckGo search engine allows partners to collect user data; it does not. The article has been updated.

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Edward Snowden Reconsidered | by Tamsin Shaw | NYR Daily …

Amazon.com: Snowden: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley …

Theater review. No one expects Oliver Stone to make a movie thats not controversial. Both in terms of subject matter and his approach. And so it is here. Here he takes on one of the most divisive (aside from politicians) Americans in recent memory. Everyone knows about Edward Snowden, a government employee with top secret access who stole computer files from a facility in Hawaii.

The film opens with Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto), Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) and documentarian Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) in Hong Kong. It is there he begins to tell his story and what he has taken and why. For an excellent award-winning documentary on this phase of Snowdens mission, check out Poitrass Citizenfour. We see Snowden in flashback as a small, but game Army recruit trying to make it as a Ranger. His weak leg bones wouldnt hold up and he was eventually discharged. He then signed up to work for the CIA and worked in Europe, not only as an analyst but briefly as a field agent. That wasnt for him.

A significant portion of the film involves his relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). Frankly I was surprised to see that Stone, who also wrote the screenplay with Kieran Fitzgerald, spent so much time on this romance. I suspect to add some flavor as well as the human aspect to what otherwise could be a cold and calculating story. In truth, it is the cold and calculating portion of the film that is the most interesting.

As Snowden rises in the ranks and get access to more and more information, he discovers that the U. S. government is spying more on its own citizens than those of its enemies. This is all terribly interesting, very scary and evidently true. The film is flush with wonderful actors. Rhys Ifans plays Corbin OBrian, Snowdens mentor along with Nicolas Cage as Hank Forrester. Joely Richardson is Janine Gibson, editor of The Guardian and Timothy Olyphant is a CIA operative in Geneva and Snowdens boss at the time. The film runs long at 134 minutes. Whatever your position is on Snowden, traitor or hero or something in between, the film is entertaining and leaves no doubt as to what Stones position is.

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Amazon.com: Snowden: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley …

Playing Edward Snowden | The New Yorker

During the three years he has spent in Russian exile, Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. contractor turned whistle-blower, has maintained a surprisingly steady presence in American culture as a kind of virtual trans-border eminence. He appears via Snowbot and video link at conferences, in museums, and in theatres. He delivers lectures at universities and grants interviews to reporters, including, in 2014, a virtual interview with The New Yorkers Jane Mayer. This past July, he turned up at Comic-Con, at a secret screening to promote Snowden, the new film directed by Oliver Stone, which comes out on September 16th. Snowdens digital omnipresence has an ironic quality: hes a ghost in the screen, a disembodied conscience, a spy in the sky. Yet in his most defining appearances to date, Snowdens voice has come to us in mediated form, shaped by the artists and journalists whom he has engaged as collaboratorsand sounding quite different depending on who is in the editing bay.

For the public, the Snowden story began with a short film by the acclaimed documentarian Laura Poitras, which later became the basis for her Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour. The footage, shot in a Hong Kong hotel room where Poitras and the Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill arranged to meet with Snowden, in 2013, showed a pale and unshaven twenty-nine-year-old in rectangular spectacles, explaining eloquently, and with eerie calmness, why he had chosen to reveal the existence of an extensive domestic-surveillance program in the United States, and then to reveal his own identity. He described the system that he helped build as the architecture of oppression, and said that he could not go on living unfreely but comfortably, paid well to spy on unwitting Americans.

The tale, many said, was straight out of a John le Carr novel, especially when Snowden, charged by the United States Department of Justice under the Espionage Act, had his passport revoked en route to Ecuador and spent thirty-nine days in Moscows Sheremetyevo Airport, before being granted temporary asylum in Russia. In his best-selling book No Place to Hide, Greenwald recalls thinking to himself that the Snowden story was a surreal international thriller.

That line must have been a red cape snapping in the faces of Hollywood packagers. Sony secured the rights to Greenwalds book. Stone, on the other hand, optioned Time of the Octopus, a novel by Anatoly Kucherena, the Russian lawyer who negotiated Snowdens asylum, which recounts the adventures of an N.S.A. whistle-blower named Joshua Cold, including his extended stay in Sheremetyevo Airport and his dealings with journalists named Boitras and Greywold. According to a long process piece recently published in the Times Magazine, it was Kucherena who approached Stone, offering access to his client in exchange for the rights to the book, for which a Wikileaks data dump revealed he charged Stone a million dollars. (Stone says that he never intended to use the material.) Turned down by numerous studios, Stone got distribution through Open Road, an independent production company that last year won an Oscar for Spotlight.

Stones Snowden follows the title character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from a patriotic impulse to enlist in the Special Forces after 9/11, through a stellar intelligence career and an odd-couple romance with a liberal acrobat and pole-dancer named Lindsay Mills, to his current state of exile. Many scenes re-create Poitrass hotel-room documentary almost to the framein one case, literally, when one side of Snowdens rectangular eyeglasses, jutting past his face, distorts the field of view. (Melissa Leo plays Poitras; Zachary Quinto plays Greenwald; Shailene Woodley plays Mills.) Stone, who is known for his anti-establishment character studies that engage with recent American historyand for conspiracy-theory politicsportrays Snowdens choices as the inevitable actions of a person of conscience. He and his co-writer, Kieran Fitzgerald (grandson of Robert), have named the overreaching spy boss (played by Rhys Ifans in the film) after the zealous Thought Policeman OBrien in 1984.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stone described the film as a close cousin to Born on the Fourth of July, his 1989 movie starring Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran who becomes an antiwar protester. Much like Kovic, Snowden wanted to serve his country, was repelled by what that service entailed, and then found a purer form of patriotism by speaking out against the actions of those in power. As in Born on the Fourth of July, the Snowden character is ennobled by his transformation from insider to outcast; the drama, driven by the heros disgust and disillusionment, centers on his change of sides. In Stones hands, the man who signed his anonymous e-mails to Poitras Citizen is not a character playing ethics chess, as in le Carr, but a hero of apostasyan American archetype as old as the nation itself. When, in the movies final moments, the real Edward Snowden appears, in a gauzy cameo that the Times Magazine reports was shot in Anatoly Kucherenas dacha, we are meant to see him as the ultimate patriot.

Gordon-Levitt, like Snowden, was born in the early eighties. A former child actor, he retains an eager boyishnessnot enigmatic so much as blank-slate. In last years Robert Zemeckis bio-pic The Walk, he portrayed the French high-wire artist Philippe Petit with what Richard Brody characterized as the antic perkiness of a salesman. As Snowden, the actors innate jauntiness is suppressed; hes watchful, grim, and courteous. To prepare for his role, he spent several hours with his subject in Moscow; he found him to be polite and slightly formal, in a Southern way. (Snowden is from North Carolina.) When Stone called him about the part, Gordon-Levitt knew little about Snowden. Since then, he has become an evangelist for Snowdens cause, donating most of his acting fee for the film to the A.C.L.U.the organization for which Snowdens American lawyer, Ben Wizner, worksand embarking on a collaboration between HitRecord,an online collaborative community that he started a decade ago, and the A.C.L.U. to explore the role that technology should play in a democracy.

Not long ago, I went to see Gordon-Levitt at the HitRecord offices, a loftlike space in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was lunchtime, and employees were gathered around a communal table eating takeout. HitRecord brings together half a million animators, editors, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other content generators, who collaborate on various kinds of projects, some prompted by Gordon-Levitt and his editorial team. (The team also produced an Emmy-winning television show, HitRecord on TV, for the millennial-oriented network Pivot.)

Gordon-Levitt, who was wearing khakis, Pumas, and a T-shirt, led me over to a quiet seating area and eased into an armchair. He said that, when he met with Snowden in Moscow, he discovered that the two have common ground. Like Snowdenwho, according to Vanity Fair, spent his late adolescence onlineGordon-Levitt, a native of the San Fernando Valley, grew up around computers. His dad, who runs a small software business, had a Commodore 64; Gordon-Levitt got his first e-mail address in high school. I dont think I ever thought of computers or the Internet as something that could be leveraged to the detriment of the human race, he told me.

The A.C.L.U. collaboration, which is called Are you there, Democracy? Its me, the Internet (pace Judy Blume), required participants to respond to the prompt Is todays technology good or bad for Democracy? In one video, a Pakistani student, Ayesha, starts her recording by removing a sticker that coversher Webcam. (In Stones film, Snowden castigates Mills for not taking the same precaution.) She describes the first time she voted, in 2013. The polling station was full of people pressuring voters to cast their ballots for a certain candidate; Ayesha and others recorded videos and posted them on the Internet. By recording or sharing our sentiments about what happened in our supposedly awesome democracy, we actually started a conversation about the fairness of the election process, she says.

The notion of using surveillance to create transparency is an inversion of the Snowden narrativebut, then again, so is the contribution that Gordon-Levitt solicited from Snowden himself. In the HitRecord office, an editor was working on the footagea recorded Google Hangout sessionand Snowdens face was talking in front of a green screen. Look, nobodys gonna argue that theres not a lot of places where technology does hurt, he said. There are days when, you know, I think that things are pretty bad. But there are also moments that I see that things could get really good. The recorded Snowden continued, What technology can ultimately provide, if we make sure it works for us rather than against us, is liberty. People are more liberated to be creative. People are more liberated to share. People are more liberated to engage in their democracy.

In a (https://hitrecord.org/projects/2894051/highlights) posted on HitRecords Web site, under the title Snowden Optimistic Project, Gordon-Levitt calls upon animators and illustrators to contribute to the projecthe envisions an enormous collage, with a hand-done feel, that will visually convey the ideas Snowden expresses, through line drawings, paper cut-outs, stop-motion animation. A sample clip made by HitRecord shows an animated drone flying across the screen and dropping a bomb as Snowden says the words places where technology does hurt. At the words mass surveillance, a row of grabby hands rises from bottom of screen, while a boxy surveillance camera swivels like a curious creature searching for morsels. One contributor tackled the next linesThere are days when, you know, I think that things are pretty bad. But there are also moments that I see that things could get really goodwith an animated illustration of dark clouds being swiped away, Apple style, on a smartphone.

Gordon-Levitt, who communicates with Snowden using encrypted video chat, has said that Snowdens sunny outlook surprised him. People think of him as symbolizing the negative sides of technology, he told me. The actor, by contrast, has come to see Snowden as an idealist. I think Snowden has a lot of love for the Internet and what it could and should be, he said. People like him and me and younger identify with it. He believes its spreading connection, collaboration, and compassion. He risked his life for it.

Whereas in Poitrass film Snowden was a pensive philosopher, and in Stones hes a principled patriot, through the lens of Gordon-Levitt and his team Snowden seems on his way to becoming a different sort of cultural icon. He is an indie Internet celebrity, an advocate for the very type of digital community that HitRecord seeks to cultivateupbeat, open, appealing. And in place of the vast and threatening thing he exposed is a vast and comforting faith in what is to come. Gordon-Levitt told me, Socrates wouldnt write anything down. He said, Itll put your mind in a prison. We think of the written word as a positive and liberating technology. I think the same applies to computers. Its just starting! Its starting now.

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Playing Edward Snowden | The New Yorker

Snowden | Official Trailer [HD] | Global Road Entertainment …

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.

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Snowden | Official Trailer [HD] | Global Road Entertainmenthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlSAi…

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Snowden | Official Trailer [HD] | Global Road Entertainment …

Amazon.com: Citizenfour: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald …

This review is not my opinion of Snowden or the NSA but my thoughts on the quality of the documentary. I am surprised by the dozens of one-word “boring” reviews here. Since CitizenFour is a documentary, I wasn’t expecting a car-chase pace.

Perhaps it is because I immersed myself in an isolated environment with laptop with headphones that I found the slow pacing and long silences to be so tense. The words left unsaid often seemed more sinister than those articulated. And despite Snowden wanting to come forward, I could really begin to feel his terror as the comfort of his anonymity and in-charge interviews gave way to the encroaching “oh crap” moments as he began preparing for the next steps.

The brief scene of him staring out the hotel window was chilling in its simplicity. It reminded me of films where prisoners of war are dragged outside to the firing squad and the prisoner looks up at the sky, knowing it will be the last time. Ever. When the Chinese human rights lawyer said they didn’t have a car, and Snowden made eye contact with the filmmaker, I could almost feel his stomach plummet. I enjoy horror movies, but this quiet documentary really disturbed me.

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Amazon.com: Citizenfour: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald …

Edward Snowdens Life As a Robot — NYMag

For a man accused of espionage and effectively exiled in Russia, Edward Snowden is also, strangely, free.

Snowden attending a TED conference in Vancouver in 2014.

Edward Snowden lay on his back in the rear of a Ford Escape, hidden from view and momentarily unconscious, as I drove him to the Whitney museum one recent morning to meet some friends from the art world. Along West Street, clotted with traffic near the memorial pools of the World Trade Center, a computerized voice from my iPhone issued directions via the GPS satellites above. Snowdens lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, was sitting shotgun, chattily recapping his clients recent activities. For a fugitive wanted by the FBI for revealing classified spying programs who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden was managing to maintain a rather busy schedule around Manhattan.

A couple nights earlier, at the New York Times building, Wizner had watched Snowden trounce Fareed Zakaria in a public debate over computer encryption. He did Tribeca, the lawyer added, referring to a surprise appearance at the film festival, where Snowden had drawn gasps as he crossed the stage at an event called the Disruptive Innovation Awards. Wizner stopped himself mid-sentence, laughing at the absurdity of his pronoun choice: He! Behind us, Snowden stared blankly upward, his face bouncing beneath a sheet of Bubble Wrap as the car rattled over the cobblestones of the Meatpacking District.

Snowdens body might be confined to Moscow, but the former NSA computer specialist has hacked a work-around: a robot. If he wants to make his physical presence felt in the United States, he can connect to a wheeled contraption called a BeamPro, a flat-screen monitor that stands atop a pair of legs, five-foot-two in all, with a camera that acts as a swiveling Cyclops eye. Inevitably, people call it the Snowbot. The avatar resides at the Manhattan offices of the ACLU, where it takes meetings and occasionally travels to speaking engagements. (You can Google pictures of the Snowbot posing with Sergey Brin at TED.) Undeniably, its a gimmick: a tool in the campaign to advance Snowdens cause and his case for clemency by building his cultural and intellectual celebrity. But the technology is of real symbolic and practical use to Snowden, who hopes to prove that the internet can overcome the power of governments, the strictures of exile, and isolation. It all amounts to an unprecedented act of defiance, a genuine enemy of the state carousing in plain view.

We unloaded the Snowbot in front of the Whitney, where a small group had gathered to meet us for a private viewing of a multimedia exhibition by the filmmaker Laura Poitras. It was Poitras whom Snowden first contacted, anonymously, in 2013, referring to the existence of a surveillance system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not. Their relationship resulted in explosive news articles and a documentary, Citizenfour work that won a Pulitzer and an Oscar and incited global outrage. But the disclosures came at a high price for their source. If Snowden couldnt come home, Poitras at least wanted him to share vicariously in the experience of her Whitney show, Astro Noise, which took its name from an encrypted file of documents he had spirited out of the secret NSA site where he worked in Hawaii. So she had arranged a personal tour.

Outside an eighth-floor gallery, a crowd of Poitrass collaborators and Whitney curators clustered around the Snowbot as a white circle twirled on its monitor. Then, suddenly, the screen awoke and Snowden was there.

Hey! Wizner said, and the group erupted in awkward laughter. The famous fugitive was wearing a gray T-shirt, his face pallid and unshaven. (He calls himself an indoor cat.) His voice sounded choppy, but some fiddling resolved the problem, and Poitras, soft-spoken and clad in black, made introductions. Snowdens preternaturally eloquent Hong Kong hotel-room encounter with Poitras and the Guardian journalists investigating his leaks formed the core of Citizenfour, but even some of those who worked on the documentary had never met its protagonist. One of the cinematographers came forward and wrapped him in a hug.

I dont have hands, Snowden apologized. The most I can do is maybe

He scooted forward.

Sitting in the same homemade studio he uses for his frequent speaking engagements, Snowden could control the robots movements with his computer, maneuvering with uncanny agility, swiveling to make eye contact with people as they spoke to him.

Poitras began with the shows opening piece, a colorful array of prints that resembled modern abstracts but were actually found objects: visualizations of intercepted satellite signals that turned up in the vast trove of NSA documents. The whole show, theres a lot of deep research thats going on behind it, she said. She led Snowden into a darkened gallery, where a spooky ambient soundscape was playing over video footage of a U.S. military interrogation. Momentarily disoriented, he careened into a bench. But Snowden quickly figured out how to navigate in the dark. When he came to parts of the exhibit that required complicated movements lying on a platform to take in the watchful night sky over Yemen, or craning to look at an NSA document through a slit in the wall the humans hoisted him into position.

Wow, okay, I see it, Snowden said as one of Poitrass researchers held him up to view footage of a drone strikes aftermath. This is a surreal experience for a number of reasons.

When the tour was over, Snowden held an impromptu discussion, likening his decision to become a dissident to a risky artistic choice. Theres always that moment where you step out and theres nothing underneath you, he said. You hope that you can build that airplane on the way down, or if you dont, that the world will catch you. In my case, Ive been falling ever since. Still, Snowden said he had no regrets. I do have to say, he told Poitras, that I will be forever grateful that you took me seriously.

As usual, though, when the questions turned to the details of his non-robotic existence, Snowden remained courteously evasive. Whats a day in the life now? asked Nicholas Holmes, the Whitneys general counsel. Do you go for walks in the park?

Well, the Snowbot replied, I go for walks in the Whitney, apparently.

Watch the Snowbot’s visit to New York’s office.

The idea that Snowden is still walking the American streets, virtually or otherwise, is infuriating to his former employers in the U.S.-intelligence community. Its leaders no longer make ominous jokes about wanting to put him on a drone kill list as former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden did in 2013 but they still vilify him and maintain that he did real harm to Americas safety and international standing. While Snowdens leaks revealed the NSAs controversial and possibly unconstitutional bulk collection of domestic internet traffic and telephone metadata, they also exposed technical details about many other classified activities, including overseas surveillance programs, secret diplomatic arrangements, and operations targeting legitimate adversaries. The spy agencies warn that the public doesnt comprehend the degree of damage done to their protective capabilities, even as events like the Orlando nightclub massacre demonstrate the destructive reach of terrorist ideology. The fallout from Snowdens actions may have prompted a debate about security and privacy that even President Obama acknowledges will make us stronger, but there has been no such reassessment, at least officially, of Snowden himself. He still faces charges of violating the federal Espionage Act, crimes that could carry a decades-long prison sentence.

When Snowden first revealed the NSAs surveillance and his own identity to the world three years ago this month, there was little reason to believe that he would be in a position to communicate much of anything in the future. The last person to leak classified information of such magnitude, Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison. (Manning, who was held in solitary confinement while awaiting trial, has largely communicated to the public through letters.) Yet so far, to his own surprise, Snowden has managed to avoid the long arm of U.S. law enforcement by finding asylum in Russia. Leaving aside, at least for the moment, the ethics of his actions (and the internal contradictions of his residence in an authoritarian state ruled by a former KGB operative), Snowdens case is, in fact, a study in the boundless freedoms the internet enables. It has allowed him to become a champion of civil liberties and an adviser to the tech community which has lately become radicalized against surveillance and, in the process, the worlds most famous privacy advocate. After he appeared on Twitter last September his first message was Can you hear me now? he quickly amassed some two million followers.

I feel like were sort of dancing around the leadership conversation, Snowden said to me recently as I sat with him at the ACLU offices. Over the past few months, we have encountered one another with some regularity, and while I cant claim to know him as a flesh-and-blood person, Ive seen his intellect in its native habitat. He is at once exhaustively loquacious and reflexively self-protective, prone to hide behind smooth oratory. But occasionally, he has let down his guard and talked like a human being. Im able to actually have influence on the issues that I care about, the same influence I didnt have when I was sitting at the NSA, Snowden told me. He claims that many of his former colleagues would agree that the programs he exposed were wrongfully intrusive. But they have no voice, they have no clout, he said. One of the weirder things thats come out of this is the fact that I can actually occupy that role. Even as the White House and the intelligence chiefs brand him a criminal, he says, they are constantly forced to contend with his opinions. Theyre saying they still dont like me tut-tut, very bad but they recognize that it was the right decision, that the public should have known about this.

Needless to say, it is initially disorienting to hear messages of usurpation emitted, with a touch of Daft Punkish reverb, from a $14,000 piece of electronic equipment. Upon meeting the Snowbot, people tend to become flustered there he is, that face you know, looking at you. That feeling, familiar to anyone whos spotted a celebrity in a coffee shop, is all the more strange when the celebrity is supposed to be banished to the other end of the Earth. And yet he is here, occupying the same physical space. The technology of telepresence feels different from talking to a computer screen; somehow, the fact that Snowden is standing in front of you, looking straight into your eyes, renders the experience less like enhanced telephoning and more like primitive teleporting. Snowden sometimes tries to put people at ease by joking about his limitations, saying humans have nothing to fear from robots so long as we have stairs and Wi-Fi dead zones in elevators. Still, he is quite good at maneuvering on level ground, controlling the robots movements with his keyboard like a gamer playing Minecraft. The eye contact, however, is an illusionSnowden has learned to look straight into his computers camera instead of focusing on the faces on his screen.

Heres the really odd thing, though: After a while, you stop noticing that he is a robot, just as you have learned to forget that the disembodied voice at your ear is a phone. Snowden sees this all the time, whether he is talking to audiences in auditoriums or holding meetings via videoconference. Theres always that initial friction, that moment where everybodys like, Wow, this is crazy, but then it melts away, Snowden told me, and after that, regardless of the fact that the FBI has a field office in New York, I can be hanging out in New York museums. The technology feels irresistible, inevitable. Hes the first robot I ever met; I doubt hell be the last.

Wizner, the head of the ACLUs Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, says that Snowden asked him to do some research on telepresence in their first conversation, back when he was still very much on the lam. Now that his situation has stabilized at least for the time being he and Snowdens small coterie of advisers are discussing ways they might use it for a widening range of purposes. Glenn Greenwald, one of Snowdens original journalistic collaborators, jokingly talks about taking the Snowbot on the road. I would love to let it loose in the parking lot of Fort Meade, where the NSA is headquartered, he said. Or to randomly go into grocery stores. More seriously, Snowdens advisers are in discussions about a research fellowship at a major American university. Already, the Snowbot has twice taken road trips to Princeton University, where he has participated in wide-ranging discussions about the NSAs capabilities with a group of renowned academic computer-security experts, rolling up to cryptographers during coffee breaks and dutifully posing for selfies.

For larger gatherings, Snowden usually dispenses with the robot, addressing audiences from giant screens. (He often opens with an ironic reference to Big Brother.) He is scheduled to make more than 50 such appearances around the world this year, earning speaking fees that can reach more than $25,000 per appearance, though many speeches are pro bono. Besides allowing Snowden to make a good living, his virtual travels on the public-lecture circuit are part of a concerted campaign to situate him within a widening zone of political acceptability. One of the things we were trying to do is to normalize him, says Greenwald. Normalize his life, normalize his presence. In 2014, Snowden joined Poitras and Greenwald on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit, and last year he was elected chairman. It serves as a base for his advocacy and gives him access to a staff of technologists with whom he has been working on encryption projects, tools intended to allow journalists to communicate with people that live in situations of threat in other words, people like Snowden himself.

Through a network of intermediaries chief among them Wizner, who acts as his advocate, gatekeeper, and talent agent in the United States Snowden is able to establish contact with almost anyone he desires to meet. Eds now getting a lot of people on the phone, and its broadening his horizons, says the author Ron Suskind, who has spoken with him on several occasions and recently had him lecture to a class he and Lawrence Lessig were teaching at Harvard Law School. Snowden also recently spoke to Amal Clooneys law class at Columbia, starred in an episode of the Vice show on HBO, and published a manifesto on whistle-blowing on the Intercept, the website Poitras and Greenwald started with the billionaire Pierre Omidyar. And he has been maintaining his presence on Twitter, where he has been playfully talking up Oliver Stones forthcoming film, Snowden, which will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The biopics September release date matches up with Wizners timetable for mobilizing a clemency appeal to Obama. Were going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists, Wizner said. Its not for when somebody didnt break the law. Its for when they did and there are extraordinary reasons for not enforcing the law against the person. He says that while no single event is likely to shift opinion in Washington, Snowdens activities work in the aggregate to further his cause.

One thing Snowden refuses to do, however, is apologize. If anything, the last three years have turned him more strident. Whereas he once espoused a fuzzy dorm-room libertarianism some of it was kind of rudimentary, Greenwald recalls today he offers a more traditional leftist critique of the deep state. On Twitter, he has been admiring of Bernie Sanders, acerbic about Hillary Clintons foreign policy, and bitingly sarcastic about her handling of classified emails. In February, he tweeted: 2016: a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs. He sees himself as part of a hacktivist movement, and he took pride when the anonymous source behind the massive cache of offshore banking data known as the Panama Papers cited Snowdens example. In his Intercept essay, he called such leaking an act of resistance.

WNYC recently staged a sold-out Friday-night event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, not far from Fort Greene Park, where some artists surreptitiously erected a Snowden bust last year. At the appointed time, the fugitive appeared on a screen at the front of an ornate opera hall. It was around 2:30 a.m. in Moscow, but Snowden looked wide-awake, wearing an open-collared shirt and blazer and his customary stubble. In an extraordinary and unpredictable way, he told the audience, my own circumstances show there is a model that ensures that even if were left without a state, we arent left without a voice.

When Snowden went public, one of the first people he sought out was a historical antecedent: Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He, too, was briefly a fugitive and faced Espionage Act charges, until they were dropped because of the illegal retaliatory actions of President Nixon. Now 85, Ellsberg was eager to talk to Snowden and they connected over an encrypted chat program.

I had the feeling that, as I suspected from the beginning, we really were kindred souls, Ellsberg told me.

Ellsberg, mindful of Mannings experience, advised Snowden to give up any thought of returning home. Snowden was inclined to agree. From the beginning, he had spoken fatalistically about the consequences of his actions. All my options are bad, Snowden acknowledged in his first interview in Hong Kong, which was published in the Guardian. If the American government didnt grab him, the Chinese might, just to find out what he knew. He hinted that the CIA might even try to kill him, either directly or through an intermediary like a triad gang. And thats a fear Ill live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be, Snowden said at the time.

He didnt have a plan, says Wizner. Snowden assumed that he would probably be silenced in one way or another, so he worked with a sympathetic programmer in the United States to design a website, supportonlinerights.com, which was to contain a letter addressed to the public. But instead, he more or less got away with it. After a nervy flight and an agonizing five-week wait in limbo at the Moscow airport, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia by President Vladimir Putin. Photos soon appeared in the Russian media showing Snowden pushing a grocery cart and looking slyly over his shoulder on a riverboat ride. It was an uneasy deliverance, though, one seemingly subject to Putins unpredictable geopolitical power considerations.

Snowden argues that he was put in Russia by the U.S. government, which canceled his passport while he was en route to Ecuador, trapping him in Moscow during a layover. But to critics, his dependence on Putin is discrediting. I am not saying that he is a Russian spy, but he is in a tough spot, says journalist Fred Kaplan, author of the recent book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War. He is in a position where, because of his captive status, he cant really say anything that terribly critical about his hosts, who happen to be some of the most sophisticated and intrusive cyberespionage hackers in the world. Many in the intelligence community darkly speculate about the nature of Snowdens accommodation with the FSB, the Russian security service, which is not renowned for its hospitality or respect for civil liberties.

Although Snowden acknowledges that he was approached by the FSB, he claims he has given them no information or assistance, and he vehemently denies he is anyones puppet. He cheered the release of the Panama Papers, which contained voluminous evidence of corruption in Putins inner circle. I have called the Russian president a liar based on his statements on surveillance, in print, in the Guardian, he said with an uncharacteristic flash of annoyance, when I asked whether he felt any constraints in discussing Russia. I have criticized Russias laws on this, that, and the other. Its just frustrating to get the question because its like, look, what do I have to do?

Snowden seems determined to refute predictions that he would end up broken, like so many whistle-blowers before him, or drunk and disillusioned, like a stereotypical Cold War defector. (He has claimed that he drinks nothing but water.) People think of Moscow as being hell on earth, he said during his Whitney visit. But when youre actually there, you realize its not that much different than other European cities. Their politics are wildly different, and of course really theyre problematic in so many ways, but the normal people, they want the same things. He says he does his own shopping and takes the metro. Family members come to visit. His longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, reunited with him in Moscow and has posted Instagram snapshots of her life there.

Last year, before Halloween, Mills posted a Photoshopped picture that posed the couple in front of FBI headquarters, with Snowden costumed as the capped protagonist of Wheres Waldo? As improbable as it may sound, he has told confidants that he doesnt think the U.S. government has managed to pin down his exact whereabouts. He says he has designed his new life around his unique threat model, minimizing his vulnerability to tracking by giving up modern conveniences like carrying a phone. He does not believe that hes shadowed all the time by the CIA, says Ellsberg, who has been in regular contact. But he does believe that he is in the sights of the FSB all the time, partly to keep him safe. Snowden is most at ease when hes on the internet, an environment he feels he can control. As a former systems engineer, he has been able to construct back-end protections that allow him to feel confident that he can evade locational detection, even when he is using the internet like a civilian. He has sometimes chatted via video on Google Hangouts.

Snowden is more wary about in-person meetings, typically conducting them in hotels like the Metropol near Red Square. More than a year after they began speaking, Ellsberg finally had the opportunity to meet Snowden in person, when he visited Moscow with an informal goodwill delegation that also included the actor John Cusack and the leftist Indian author Arundhati Roy. At the appointed time, Snowden called and said to meet him in the lobby of their hotel. Cusack took the elevator downstairs, and Snowden surprised him by getting on at the fourth floor. When they returned to the room, Ellsberg greeted Snowden by saying, Ive been waiting 40 years for someone like you.

Two days of marathon bull sessions and room-service dining ensued. Ellsberg tried unsuccessfully to get confirmation of some long-held suspicions about the extent of the NSAs spying on Americans. Periodically, Snowden would point to the ceiling, to remind the room that others were probably listening. Cusack and Roy later recounted the conversation in a 13,000-word essay, writing that when the meeting was over, Ellsberg lay down on Johns bed, Christ-like, with his arms flung open, weeping for what the United States has turned into a country whose best people must either go to prison or into exile.

The notion that Snowden has become, to some, a sort of mythic figure the Oracle of the Metropol is profoundly annoying to the people who actually hold the nations intelligence secrets. Id love to see him come back to the U.S. and take his medicine, says Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who has been deeply involved in both the legislative fallout from the NSA revelations and internal government discussions over the potential prosecution of Snowden. Litt says he sees the consequences of Snowdens actions on extremist message boards, which now exhort jihadis to use encryption. It cannot be disputed, he told me, that this has had immeasurable impact.

Snowden believes that officials like Litt are merely trying to scare the public into acquiescence. Last October, the two had a showdown of sorts when they spoke back-to-back at a conference at Bard College. Each time we have an election, its like another round of a game, Snowden told the students. Using a livecasting program designed for gamers that allows him to project illustrations, he filled the auditorium screen with an image of George W. Bush shaking hands with Obama. The policies of one president become the policies of another. Then he played a video clip of the cleric Anwar al-Awlakis son, a 16-year-old American citizen killed by a drone strike in Yemen. He cited a leaked 2015 email in which Litt addressed the hostile legislative climate, recommending keeping our options open for a change in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.

Surveillance is ultimately not about safety, Snowden said. Surveillance is about power. Surveillance is about control.

Litt opened his remarks by joking that he could sympathize with the act that went on Ed Sullivan after the Beatles. I can hear the NSAs opinion any day, one student stage-whispered, as he and many others got up to head for the exits. Litt called after them, saying he was disappointed with the disdain given that this is an academic environment. He then elaborated on the ominous sentiment expressed in his email.

Every time something bad happens, the finger gets pointed at the intelligence community, Litt said. There is a pendulum that swings back and forth, in terms of the public view of the intelligence community, between, You mean youre doing what? and Why didnt you protect us? And thats a pendulum thats going to swing again.

While much of Washington remains hostile to him, Snowden is far more hopeful about Silicon Valley and is increasingly focusing his efforts on influencing technology and the people who make it. Like me, they grew up with this stuff, he told me. They remember what the internet was like before everybody felt it was being watched.

The Snowden leak was like a gut punch for people across Silicon Valley, says Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist who invested early in Twitter and Uber and who now appears on the television show Shark Tank. Sacca was personally friendly with Obama, raising large sums for his 2012 campaign, but was shocked when he discovered the extent of the NSAs spying and has since become a vocal Snowden supporter. Last November, Sacca did an admiring interview with Snowden at the Summit at Sea, an invite-only weekend of seminar talks and techno dancing aboard a cruise ship, which was attended by the likes of Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet, and Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. After fielding over an hour of tough questions, Sacca says, he got a resounding standing ovation from the room.

Even as Snowden captivated the audience on the boat, though, terrorists were mounting a bloody coordinated attack in Paris. The pendulum was swinging back. At first, Wizner says, Snowden was shaken he worried that the attacks had wiped out all of his progress. Almost immediately, anonymous security sources blamed encryption for giving cover to the attackers. (Subsequent reports suggest they may have been more reliant on primitive tactics, like using burner phones.) They dragged out all the old CIA directors, the line of disgrace, to suddenly try to reclaim a halo, Snowden told me. It did look really exploitative. For three weeks, he went quiet, posting just once to Twitter, quoting Nelson Mandela about triumphing over fear. Meanwhile, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked in San Bernardino, and Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration.

Wizner advised his client to be patient. Snowden sometimes says he thinks of his existence like a video game: a series of challenges that culminate in a final screen, where you either win or its game over. But political outcomes are never so final its an iterative process. In February, when Apple announced it was refusing to break into Farooks iPhone for the FBI, Snowden was suddenly scoring points again. (The @FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on #Apple to defend their rights, he tweeted, rather than the other way around.) In an open letter, Tim Cook, Apples chief executive, talked the way Snowden does about privacy, encryption, and government overreach. The next day, Snowden spoke at Johns Hopkins University, where hundreds of shivering students lined up to get into a packed auditorium. This is a case thats not about San Bernardino at all; its not a case thats about terrorism at all, Snowden warned. Its about the precedent.

Litt believes that, besides giving information to enemies, Snowdens disclosures have also had a radicalizing effect in the private sector. The technology and communications community has moved from a position of willingness to cooperate, he told me, to an attitude that ranges from neutrality to outright hostility, which is an extremely bad thing. Recently, Snowden has been working with technical experts who are mobilizing to fortify the internets weak spots, both through collaborations with academic researchers and back-channel conversations with employees at major tech companies.

In all of these conversations, Snowden is operating on the assumption that a truly private space on the internet could be easier to create than to legislate that it may be more fruitful to coax programmers to invent something that is difficult to hack than it would be to try to reshape the entire national-security bureaucracy so it stops trying. Im regularly interacting with some of the most respected technologists and cryptographers in the world, Snowden said. I believe that theres actually a lot more influence that results from those sorts of conversations, because so much of technology is an expert game.

The aspect of the Snowden leaks that most outraged technology experts was not the NSAs communications surveillance but its efforts to undermine encryption, which had broad impacts on computer security. That news has created a period of innovation in encryption, says Moxie Marlinspike, the San Franciscobased security specialist who developed Signal, the messaging program that Snowden likes to use to communicate. Marlinspike has become friendly with Snowden, whom he met in Moscow, where they had a lengthy discussion about the trade-offs between security and usability. (Snowden is always seeing holes hackers can poke through; Marlinspike wants to make encryption accessible to laypeople.) In April, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, announced that it had integrated the Signal protocol Marlinspike developed, allowing it to offer end-to-end encryption. Those sorts of technical decisions, like Apples strengthened encryption standards, affect the privacy of millions of customers.

But Snowden is skeptical of the motives of tech companies. Corporations arent friends of the people, corporations are friends of money, he said. He prefers to collaborate with academics and hacktivists, some of whom are helping him with projects he is developing for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. It already manages SecureDrop, a system for anonymously leaking documents, and the nonprofits technical staff is working with Snowden to develop other programs tailored to protect journalists and whistle-blowers. His goal with us is to start designing and prototyping what the tools of the future will look like, says Trevor Timm, the foundations executive director. One of Snowdens priorities, unsurprisingly, is improving the security of videoconferencing.

About once a week, the team meets on a beta-stage video platform, where they discuss the painstaking work of testing their technology, a probing process called dogfooding. As a prime target for hacking attacks, Snowden is in a unique position to appreciate extreme-threat models. He often comes up with exotic problems to solve and is able to bring in outside minds for confidential consultations. Were building small projects, Snowden says, but he cant help but see larger applications. He talks enthusiastically about virtual reality, which could soon supplant videoconferencing. In five years this shits going to blow your mind, Snowden told me. But he also sees potential dangers. Suddenly, youve got every government in the world sitting in every meeting with you.

Snowden is especially concerned about the monitoring power of Facebook, which acquired Oculus VR, the virtual-reality headset maker, for $2 billion. What if Facebook has a copy of every memory that you ever made with someone else in these closed spaces? he asked rhetorically. We need to have space to ourselves, where nobodys watching, nobodys recording what were doing, nobodys analyzing, nobodys selling our experiences.

It is clear that in virtual reality, Snowden sees more than just a work tool. Right now, the technology is not quite there, but this is the first step, the Snowbot told Peter Diamandis, the space entrepreneur and Singularity University co-founder, in an interview at this years Consumer Electronics Show. I have someone who is very close to me, Snowden explained, who was the victim of a serious car accident, and because of that they cant travel. Virtual reality could bring them together. Or it could allow him to visit home for Thanksgiving, overcoming what he calls the tyranny of distance.

More than one person told me that, after talking to Snowden for hours on end, they got the sense that he is lonely. His conversation is preoccupied with the theme of escape. He recently collaborated on a track with a French musician, delivering a spoken-word monologue on surveillance over an electronic beat, and recommended the title: Exit.

Snowden sometimes says that although he lives in Russia, he does not expect to die there, and he told me he is optimistic that he will find a way out, somehow. Maybe some Scandinavian country will offer him asylum. Maybe he can work out some kind of deal whether outright clemency or a plea bargain with the Justice Department. Wizner has been working with Plato Cacheris, a well-connected Washington defense attorney, but so far, there have been no official signals that the Justice Department would be willing to offer the kind of lenient terms Snowden would accept. And a window may be closing. He is unlikely to receive a more receptive hearing from Hillary Clinton, who has said he shouldnt be allowed to return without facing the music. As for Donald Trump: He has called Snowden a total traitor and suggested he should be executed. If Im president, he predicted last year, Putin says, Hey, boom youre gone.

So the comparatively thoughtful Obama may be Snowdens best hope, but even Snowdens allies concede that they doubt the outgoing president has the inclination to offer a pardon. There is an element of absurdity to it, Snowden told me. More and more, we see the criticisms leveled toward this effort are really more about indignation than they are about concern for real harm. He says he would return and face the Espionage Act charges if he could argue to a jury that he acted in the public interest, but the law does not currently allow such a defense. These people have been thinking about the law for so long that they have forgotten that the system is actually about justice, Snowden said. They want to throw somebody in prison for the rest of his life for what even people around the White House now are recognizing our country needed to talk about.

Earlier this year, Snowden was buoyed by an invitation from an unexpected source. David Axelrod, the presidents former top political strategist, asked him to appear at the institute he now runs at the University of Chicago. Beforehand, they had a video chat. The president of the United States closest advisers, Snowden told me later, are now introducing me and sharing the stage with me in ways that arent actually critical. Im not saying this to build myself up. Im talking about the recognition by even the people who have the largest incentives to delegitimize me as a person, that maybe we overreacted, maybe this is a legitimate conversation that we need to have.

Axelrod asked Geoffrey Stone, a liberal law professor who is friendly with Obama, to moderate the public talk. Stone is a member of the ACLUs National Advisory Council and the author of a book titled Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark, but he also served on Obamas commission to review the NSAs surveillance programs, an experience that gave him access to classified information and a dim view of Snowden. My view is that he cannot be granted clemency, because he did commit a criminal offense and it did considerable harm, Stone told me. The people who are celebrating Snowden have no understanding of the harm, for the reason that the people in the intelligence world cant really explain the harm to them. Snowden considered Stones position to be an example of regulatory capture, proof of the seductive power of security clearances. Secret knowledge, Snowden says, is a very intoxicating thing.

Still, Snowden was looking forward to the debate, if only because it illustrates his progress. Wizner, who considered the Axelrod relationship important to his future clemency push, attended the May event in person. Weve gone from the president saying Were not going to scramble jets for a 29-year-old hacker to talking with the presidents rabbi, Wizner said backstage as event staff set up computers and projection equipment. Thats a good journey for us.

Axelrod shambled in, looking sleepy-eyed as always, as students filled the auditorium and Wizner texted last-minute instructions to his client over Signal. Whatever you think about Edward Snowden and his actions, and the adjectives range from traitor to hero, Axelrod said by way of introduction, he has indisputably triggered a really vital public debate about how we strike a balance between civil liberties and security. He sat down in the front row as Snowdens bashful grin filled a large screen.

Snowden had already done one event that day, a cybersecurity conference in Zurich, and he seemed weary as Stone probed for logical weaknesses. The law professor asked when it was appropriate for a relatively low-level official in the national-security realm to take it upon himself to decide that it is in the national interest to disclose the existence of programs that have been approved To decide for himself that I think theyre wrong. Snowden gave his usual homilies about the Constitution, whistle-blowing, and civil disobedience. Do we want to create a precedent that dissidents should be volunteering themselves not for the 11 days in jail of Martin Luther King or the single night of Thoreau, he asked, but 30 years or more in prison, for what is an act of public service?

Stone pointed out that Congress could pass a law allowing defendants to make a whistle-blowing defense in Espionage Act cases but shows no signs of doing it. You believe in democracy, Stone said. But democracy doesnt agree with you. The professor jabbed and Snowden weaved, setting his jaw and taking swigs from a big plastic water bottle. But when the floor opened for questions, it was clear who had won the audience. One student after another got up to offer Snowden praise.

Did you expect to become a celebrity in this way? one asked.

If you go back to June 2013, Snowden said, I said, Look, guys, stop talking about me, talk about the NSA. But he added, Our biology, our brains, the way we relate to things, is about character stories. So they simply would not let me go.

Axelrod watched impassively, his fingers tented under his nose. The full effect of Snowdens performance did not become clear until a few weeks later, when Axelrod had Eric Holder the former attorney general, once Snowdens chief pursuer on his podcast, The Axe Files. Holder allowed that Snowden actually performed a public service, while Axelrod calmly presented Snowdens arguments.

I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done, Holder replied. But I think, you know, in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate.

Holders concession made international headlines. It didnt mean anything legally, but symbolically it spoke volumes. Political realities were starting to come into alignment with Snowdens virtual ones. From his computer in Moscow, Snowden tweeted:

2013: Its treason!2014: Maybe not, but it was reckless2015: Still, technically it was unlawful2016: It was a public service but2017:

*This article appears in the June 27, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

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Edward Snowdens Life As a Robot — NYMag